Steelers Implored to Target DT Javon Hargrave in NFL Free Agency

Mike Tomlin


One writer is calling for head coach Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers to target one of their former draft picks in free agency this offseason.

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost defensive tackle Javon Hargrave in free agency following the 2019 season. Hargrave signed a 3-year, $39 million contract to move across the state and play for the Philadelphia Eagles.

But one NFL writer tweeted that it’s time for the Steelers to consider bringing Hargrave back home to western Pennsylvania.

SB Nation’s Michael Beck wrote on social media that the “Steelers should hunt a couple big fish” in free agency next March. Hargrave was one of three “big-named” players Beck referenced in his tweet.

Hargrave is experiencing a terrific season for the Eagles this fall. He has posted a career-high 10.0 sacks with 50 combined tackles, including 9 tackles for loss, and 14 quarterback hits.

He also has 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble and 1 pass defense in 2022.

Steelers’ Growing Need at Defensive Line

Beck’s argument that the Steelers should be aggressive in free agency makes sense. Quarterback Kenny Pickett has more growing to do, but he’s done enough to convince the organization that he’s the team’s starter behind center going forward.

That means, as long as Pickett continues to progress, that the Steelers will have more cap space than usual with their franchise quarterback on a rookie deal through at least 2025.

With that in mind, Pittsburgh probably should be more willing to offer a veteran a 2-3 year deal in an effort to shore up the team’s weaknesses quickly.

Bringing back Hargrave would do that. After leading the NFL in sacks every year from 2017-21, the Steelers have just 32 sacks through 15 games this season. That’s 22nd in the league.

Adding a pass rushing presence to the middle of their defensive line with T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith on the outside could get the Steelers right back to the top of the league in sacks.

But putting the pass rush aside, the Steelers could simply use an influx of youth and more depth along their defensive line. Hargrave doesn’t really satisfy the first need, but he will help in the second area.

Cameron Heyward is the only Steelers defensive lineman playing at least 26% of the team’s defensive snaps this season who is under contract next year. And while Heyward is still a force to be reckoned with, but he will turn 34 in May.

Set to be 30 next season, Hargrave would give the Steelers a star defensive lineman to take some attention away from Heyward and the team’s outside linebackers.

Projecting Hargrave’s Potential Value in 2023 Free Agency

Hargrave picked the perfect time to have a career year. He really took off in Philadelphia during 2020 and 2021, but Hargrave is now reaching new heights this season.

He surpassed his previous career best in sacks during the first week of December. This season, he’s also tied a career high in tackles for loss and is closing in on high-water marks in tackles and quarterback hits.

Hitting those totals heading into free agency, Spotrac projected Hargrave’s market value to be about $20.2 million per season on a three-year contract. If he signed a three-year deal, that would make the total value of his new contract approximately $60.5 million.

The Steelers and other potential Hargrave suitors might be fortunate if his value is that low. On December 5, Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger ranked Hargrave the fourth-best player set to be a free agent in March.

Not only that, but Spielberger rated Hargrave the top available non-quarterback free agent for next year. The only players he ranked ahead of Hargrave on his list was Lamar Jackson, Geno Smith and Tom Brady.

In 109 career games, Hargrave has posted 36.5 sacks, 319 combined tackles, including 45 tackles for loss and 62 quarterback hits.

Over four years with the Steelers, the defensive tackle had 14.5 sacks, 22 tackles for loss and 22 quarterback hits in 63 contests.

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